So here is a brief rundown of some of the technology that appears in Ghosts of Innocence.
Have I followed or broken my own rules? Let the bloggers decide.
Faster than light travel
Exhibit A, M'Lud: The "hopper" drive moves a ship from point to point in space by jumping between higher-dimensional folds in visible space-time, effectively taking a short cut from A to B. Individual hops in open space are typically tens or hundreds of miles long, and the drive may make a million hops a second, giving superlight speed.
The charge: Significant exposition at one point on how pushing the drive too far can result in cumulative damage to ship and crew, akin to radiation exposure.
Also a suspiciously techie turn of phrase later on: The heat of the sun posed no threat, but the invisible grasp of its gravity tugged on the particles of ship and crew as they flung themselves across a fractal labyrinth of inter-dimensional chasms.
The defence: At no point is anything about the drive mechanism explained in any kind of detail. Risks are hinted at in the reactions of the crew at various points, and illustrated when a ship they pursue explodes.
The one piece of exposition is delivered as dialogue, when a very ill Shayla talks to an engineer on board a ship racing to beat the bad guys. The engineer explains why Shayla and other crew members are getting sick, but nothing about how the drive works. This sickness is a crucial plot point, as they are forced to stop for medical aid which leads into the next phase of the chase.
On the offending sentence I offer no defence. I just enjoyed writing it.
Materials, drugs, biotech
Nicodyne: A stimulant, widely used to keep people going around the clock. Trylex: A drug which robs the victim of all voluntary movement and unable to resist the suggestion of external commands. Animastin: A memory-erasing drug. Nacrolin: A nerve poison which paralyses and kills the victim in hours or days of agony, depending on the dose.
Refractory materials: Capable of withstanding a high-grade plasma.
Chemical recognition signals: Examples like the "nose" mentioned in an earlier post.
Subcutaneous implants: Biotech disguise that allows a person to voluntarily change appearance.
Mitigating pleas: None of these are explained at all in the book. The effects are illustrated as they occur. See earlier post for an example.
Miscellaneous big guns: Quark bomb, pulse bomb, plasma cannon, particle beams.
Hand held weapons: Particle beams, needle guns, and the shimmerblade - a kind of knife with extraordinary cutting power.
The charges: Gratuitous inclusion of advanced technology, and inclusion of techie jargon like "quark" and "plasma".
Also one-line description of the shimmerblade which borders on the jargonistic: Her pocket knife was another matter entirely. Looking perfectly commonplace, it was a shimmerblade like Finn's. When activated, the vibrating crystalline edge could shear effortlessly through anything short of military grade vehicle armor.
The defence: Here I suspect I'm on shakier ground, but in this spacefaring society I decided I needed advanced weaponry to go with their level of technology.
Quark bombs were a simple extrapolation beyond the release of chemical energy (conventional explosives) and nuclear energy. They are not described nor seen in action, just referred to in hushed tones. They are touchy buggers and impractical to deploy in warfare, but make a potent terrorist threat.
Plasma beams are seen, big time. I needed something futuristic that could plausibly level a city in a single blast.
Most of the other weapons are commonplace sci-fi staples that really needed no introductions. The shimmerblade, I decided, was different enough to warrant something to justify its potency, having just seen it behead two people with minimal effort.
In no case do I try to explain the technology behind the weapons, but I'll accede to the charge of gratuitous jargon-dropping if the court so sees fit.
Artificial gravity, handheld computers in the form of flexible scrolls and notepads operated by drawing and writing, limited artificial intelligence in surveillance systems and ships' control and battle systems.
These are all seen as part of the everyday fabric of life. No explanations offered.
Throughout the book, I've tried to adhere to some simple principles:
- Showing technology in use, showing its effects in the world and on the characters.
- Avoiding any kind of lecturing or explanations of underlying function.
- Introducing additional detail only where essential to the plot or to the reader's understanding of events, and trying to do so as naturally as possible.
- Giving items mundane names, or names that could be trademarks (especially the drugs), and steering away from anything sounding too geeky. In other words, using terms that you could envisage being used in everyday conversation.
I hereby throw myself on the mercy of the court.